The Dangers of Fumes and Dusts
Breathing in dust and fumes can be bad for you. Nowadays we are very aware of our health and the effects the world around us has on it. From foods, to walking down the road to the work place. The Health and Safety at Work Act covers a whole host of provisions, guidelines, laws and directives for protecting workers health. A large part of this is controlling exposure to harmful substances in the air – particularly dusts and fumes.
Why do I Have to Have Extraction?
HSE (Health and Safety Executive) are very clear on this. You are legally required to provide exposure controls for any and all potentially harmful airborne contaminates.
This is mainly detailed in The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, more commonly known as COSHH.
COSHH states you legally have to provide exposure controls to protect not only your employees but also ANY members of the public whom may be exposed as well as the environment. This is a vital stipulation for businesses that service the general public, such as Salons, Beauticians, Nail Bars, Spray Tanning and many more Cosmetic and Beauty Treatments. Even if you are working as a lone technician and see customer in yours or their homes you have a legal responsibility to protect them.
Why Are These Treatments Dangerous?
Lets look at a few of the common chemicals and cosmetic products that are used. First point of call…..Nail Polish Remover.
This is readily available and used by the bucket load world wide. It can also contain Acetone.
Acetone is pretty nasty – just look at YouTube videos of it dissolving plastics. Repeatedly breathing in the fumes (the bad smell) can commonly cause headaches (these can be severe) and it causes irritation to the eyes, skin and throat.
Removers also contain Butyl Acetate and Isopropyl Acetate – which also causes headaches and irritation to the nose, throat, eyes and skin. Let’s try another – Artificial Nail Glue Removers.
These commonly contain Acetonitrile – The fumes from this can cause irritation to the nose and throat. It can also cause breathing problems, nausea, vomiting, weakness and even exhaustion.
Glue removers can also contain Ethyl Acetate – which can severely irritate your eyes, skin, nose, mouth, throat and stomach and at a reasonably high level of exposure – one that could be found in a small, busy salon, on a hot day – can cause dizziness or fainting.
One last one – Nail Polish itself.
Commonly found in nail polish is Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate.
Besides all being awkward to say – they're pretty harmful. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, as in we can directly link people whom have been exposed to formaldehyde to developing cancer. When mixed with air formaldehyde vapours turn into formic acid and that is what you breathe in.
Toluene has also been directly linked to liver and kidney damage and most scarily, harm to pregnancies and unborn children.
All of these chemicals mentioned above are also proven to cause headaches, breathing difficulties, coughing, wheezing, allergic reactions, irritations to eyes, nose, skin, throat and mouth.
But I Don’t Use Much
No, you may not use much for each client but these chemicals build up over time in the atmosphere and in your body – lungs and skin cells. Each time you use it you absorb a little more of the airborne fumes. We refer to this as Repeated Exposure. This is what does the damage.
All the above is before I have even mentioned dust.
Wait… What About Dust?
Dust is just as dangerous as fumes. As an example, the process of filing false nails (either manually or via a tool such as a Dremel) will create a lot of dust. This dust can be made up of acrylic from the nails, dried glue or polish particles and even human skin…. Yuk.
Not only is it unsightly on your equipment, work station, your clothes and potentially your customers – it is also bad for your health. Dust that gets into your nose and throat can irritate these areas and cause allergic reactions, coughing, sneezing and other discomforts. However, the real danger is the dust you can’t see. The human eye can see down to around 10 microns (about the thickness of a human hair), but the vast majority of dust is much smaller than this. Its small enough in fact to pass into the Bronchi and Bronchioles of your lungs and effect the Alveoli.
This means they are small enough to get in to the vital workings of your lungs and once they are there (pause for dramatic effect), they don’t come out. Dust inhaled in the work place has been directly linked to the steady increase of occupational asthma – a potentially life threating condition and one that could cause lasting damage.
What do I do?
Luckily it is actually very easy to protect yourself and your clients – with out destroying your bank balance. Firstly, make sure the working area is as open, spacious and as well ventilated as it can be, open windows, avoid confined spaces and (you guessed it)…. Purchase an Extraction System.
Where do I get one and Which one do I need?
Well…… funny you should ask, we happen to have the perfect extractor ideal for protecting you and your customers from the nasties in the air that beauty treatments can produce.
We have well priced products that are HSE and COSHH compliant and will remove the harmful dusts, fumes and vapours from the air in your salon and working place. There are some links below to the ideal products and we are always on hand to talk it through with you, answer any questions and help you get the right product for you. You can also see our upcoming blog post detailing the units we recommend. (I’m still writing it at the time of publishing)
Will They Handle the Dust?
Yes, they will. The filters in our units will remove 99.997% of dust in the air down to 0.3 microns (remember a human hair is around 10 microns) But…..
Its not a hoover. It will remove airborne dust (the stuff you can breathe in) but it won’t clean your work station, clothes etc. Its designed to protect people’s lungs and health. If the dust is falling straight to the floor, work surface etc you aren’t breathing it in and it doesn’t need extracting. Good house keeping will keep on top of that. One thing it will improve is by removing the airborne dust in the first place it will stop the fine dust (in the air) from settling over time – such as overnight – improving the working areas over all cleanliness and reducing repeat exposure
If you really feel like it you can read through the Heath and Safety at Work Act 1974 or The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (2002) amended (you need section 7) or I recommend reading the HSE guideline called SR13. It’s a simple page that helps you understand what you need to do to be safe. Here is a link to the right section on the Heath and Safety website - COSHH and Beauticians - Key Points